Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup: Confirmed Cases Rise to 14,897; 747 People in AZ Now Dead After Contracting Virus; Pima County Supes Put Off Revising Restaurant Regs Until Tomorrow; City Buildings Closed to Public Through June 8

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona reached 14,897 as of Wednesday, May 20, according to the morning report from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had 1,903 confirmed cases.

The coronavirus had killed 747 people statewide, including 167 in Pima County, according to the report.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had risen to 7,644.

Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people, especially if you have underlying health conditions, and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.

Arizona's stay-at-home order expired at the end of Friday, May 15. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced last week that gyms, pools and movie theaters can now reopen. Ducey also invited major-league sports to play in Arizona, although he said it would have to be without fans in the audience.

Ducey gave the green light for for restaurants and bars that offer food service to reopen last week. Restrictions were previously lifted on stores, barber shops and salons.

Ducey said he hoped that schools would be able to reopen in the fall but was yet not ready to make that call.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said last week that Ducey was moving forward too quickly on reopening the state.

"As eager as we all are to return to any sense of normalcy, I believe that the Governor is moving too quickly and that we should proceed methodically and cautiously to prevent a re-emergence that would be even more damaging to our economy in the long-run," Romero said. "Dr. Fauci and our nation's top health experts testified earlier this week that without widespread testing and a robust contact tracing plan in place, states that are re-opening risk a second wave of the virus. Although some improvements have been made, we lag the rest of the country in both areas. I don’t want our economy to just re-open, I want it to remain open. That will not happen if there is a second wave of the virus and we are forced to shut down again."

Dr. Bob England, the director of the Pima County Health Department, said people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 should continue to take precautions.

"Just know that if you're vulnerable, if you're older, if you have underlying health conditions that put you at higher risk, then please, please, please hunker down for a while longer," England cautioned.

England said last week that the results of reopening so many establishments wouldn’t be known for weeks as test results tend to lag behind the actual spread of the virus.

“It will take a few weeks to know the impact of this so we won’t know until early June what all of this is doing to the epidemic curve,” England said in a recent daily briefing.

Other members of the medical community said Ducey’s move may have come soon and will result in greater spread of the virus. State Rep. Randy Friese, an emergency room doctor, warned last week that by relaxing so many standards so quickly, Ducey was risking losing all the progress that state has made in stemming the disease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the Trump administration, told the U.S. Senate in testimony last week that states and cities should follow the guidelines set out by the CDC when allowing businesses to reopen. “It’s my concern that if some areas—cities, states, what have you—jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said. “The consequences could be really serious.”

In other COVID-related news:

• In a meeting yesterday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors put off a decision to revise the emergency health regulations they passed last week on party lines. The health regulations, related to the “best practices” strategies developed by the county’s Back To Business Task Force, have come under fire by some members of the restaurant sector as well as local GOP state lawmakers. The supervisors, who plan to revise the regulations, scheduled another meeting at 2 p.m. tomorrow to revise the regulations.

The regulations have been opposed by Republican Supervisors Steve Christy and Ally Miller last week voted against the new regulations, which include taking the temperature of all workers and anyone making deliveries to restaurants. Christy said the regulations were too burdensome for a sector that has already been hammered by the outbreak's fallout.

The new regulations led three Republican state lawmakers, Sen. Vince Leach and Reps. Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts, to call on Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate whether the regulations went past what was allowed under Gov. Doug Ducey's emergency declaration, which limits the ability of local jurisdictions to enact regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the county was on firm legal ground but agreed that some new regulations should be revised.

• Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said other than city court, city buildings would remain closed to public access through June 8. When city buildings reopen, visitors will be required to wear masks and may need to undergo a temperature check before being allowed in. City employees can continue to telecommute, especially those with underlying health conditions or those who have children who need care. The city is continuing its moratorium on disconnecting water service and the moratorium on evictions at city-owned properties through June 30.

• The Arizona House of Representatives resumed work this week after temporarily adjourning in mid-March, with an aim of wrapping unfinished business by the end of the week. Although the Arizona Senate has already adjourned for the year, House lawmakers could still pass bills that the Senate had already approved and send them to Gov. Doug Ducey for approval. A special legislative session could happen later this year to deal with budget issues and other legislation related to COVID-19, including limiting liability for businesses that could face lawsuits related to the outbreak.

• Pima County Public Libraries reopened this week, with limited services, including book pickup, computer use on a first-come, first-served basis, and printing, copying and fax services. The new open hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will still be precautions for coronavirus, including taking guests' temperatures before they enter the building, wearing face masks and maintaining six feet of physical distance. The library will also allow only a limited number of people in at a time, and guests will most likely have to wait in line to get in.

• COVID-19 symptoms typically occur two to 14 days after exposure, and include headache, fever, cough, shortness of breath or a loss of taste and smell, according to the CDC. However, some cases of the virus are entirely asymptomatic. Practices to avoid infection include social distancing (of at least six feet), washing your hands, avoiding unnecessary trips and not touching your face. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, speak with a healthcare provider for medical advice.

According to the CDC, people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Stay at home and avoid public transportation, but stay in touch with your doctor. If you do leave your home, wear a facemask and clean your hands often. If you develop more severe symptoms (persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, bluish lips) get medical attention immediately. Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.

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